It has not been a productive year for writing, so far. In the depth of last winter there were good intentions, even some actual work (!) then it all melted away, washed out by the rain. A few sunny days were not enough to rekindle the fire, there was too much distraction.
In part, the problem is with location: too many ideas got swallowed up, shredded, transformed by the magic of a city, a provinz, steeped in history. A few steps from the touristic centre, and there it is: an uninterrupted lineage, from Friedrich der Große, the napoleonic wars, the liberation, the revolution, 1871, straight down to the Sleepwalkers, two world wars, the occupation, and then now… As we ride around the Döberitzer Heide, we look at the vastness where der Alte Fritz had his army drilled before the Seven Years war (1753), where the imperial armies trained for the Kaiser’s African dreams, where the Red Army camped and vandalised the obelisk that commemorated the event, taking the metal with them (1992)…
So, it’s back to the beginnings, for writing about an uncertain future we must above all emphasise with the past, we must patiently listen to the ghosts.
Photography: a young European bison bull in the midst of the NSG Döberitzer Heide (Dallgow-Döberitz, Brandenburg) ©2017 Honoré Dupuis
The enemy breached the walls: in a few hours the virus spread, and a deep change set in. I can’t breath, nor think clearly. I know today is first day of Autumn, the trees colours have been changing for a while. Have we had a real summer? This is the time to go back to serious writing, but it will have to wait: reconquest. It will take time.
Already we have to plan the next trip, this time by road. Is it wise? Feeling drained, only sleep seems to help…
So much to do…
Picture: Gustav Klimt, Beech Grove, 1902
Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, via sulphuriclike
The prompt, Wednesday April 26
She belongs to this city, even if she would deny it. Her accent, I know, is – ever so lightly – from somewhere else, further East, for such is History. Once upon a time, those lands belonged here. Her roots are here.
And I, wandering those streets, drinking quietly on the benches of the parks, try to guess where she is, now, that war again sounds on the horizon. She haunts my dreams, her steps always fading, beyond some wall, or perhaps, behind a cloud.
The ruins have gone – so many women cleared the streets, as the soldiers jeered. At night I roam the squares, near the churches…
She’s nowhere to be found…
Photo: berlin 2017 © martin u waltz. streetberlin.net
You haunt my dreams, you haunt these pages, and the places where I once was, and the ones I haven’t seen yet, indispensable, sometime smiling, sometime not, as if you wanted me to know when I keep to the path of truthfulness, and when I don’t.
In a crowd you always find me, and, in my worst nightmares, I no longer see you…
Without you I wouldn’t be here, just a few mineral atoms lost in vacuum. I would not write, what is a writer without muse? How would I even know that this world existed?
Yet, without me, you would be around for sure, but someone else entirely: her reflection in your eyes would belong to another being, maybe even the opposite of me? Can I imagine that strange being, in a world I know nothing about?
No, you are saying, this couldn’t be, for you have made me, and in many ways, I have made you.
Picture: The river, by Chris De Becker
Each day some words appear on the page, tentative, surrounded in mist, as if those words emerged from a cloudy landscape, as yet unformed. Summoning a clean page let the characters know: they are not alone, more life is being breathed into their world, a genesis.
Their impatience is a testimony to their precarious existence: until the work is complete, they don’t know for sure that they will survive the latest twist, those nightly revisions, the dreaded editing. For words may disappear, and with them, the reasons for those fragile beings to be born.
Each day, for us too, is a clean page, to be written with care, and attention to detail: for the number of pages is finite, and the Book has many characters.
The story is there, the characters laid out, not yet fully alive, but stirring. The daily bombardment of falsehoods, the unstoppable flow of hate and lies are the sad background: is it not the writer’s duty to see through, to unravel, to show the lessons that could have been learnt? But who is she to claim to know? Who is he to claim some knowledge, somehow privileged to the “happy few”, as Stendhal once wrote?
Only the story should tell, only the characters should speak. Not by blaming the past – which is our present – but only by imagining what could be, do we have a chance to change the future…
Image: Statue of Liberty, courtesy http://travelhdwallpapers.com/statue-of-liberty-sunset/
We retrace our steps, without intention, it just happens: suddenly we see ourselves, there at that terrace, one evening, or there, along those walls, pushing our bikes. It’s later at night, and the Neue Gallerie is not yet closed, we meet there, in a concert of bright lights and laughter.
That was three years ago, then it was Spring; how fast time goes in this City? Those ghosts are us, or perhaps, we have become them. We know those streets, we can follow our shadows. They, us, look at us, interested and tender, those younger faces, ours, so familiar, now observing us from the other side of the mirror.
But which side are we in?
Photo: inspired by the beautiful blog https://streetberlin.net/, street photography. berlin. kulturforum. 2016 © martin waltz
So much to see, so little time…
History walks along the quiet streets, ghosts hide in the corridors of museums: our steps resonate in the night, so much to explore… The story ripens, enriched by the findings, tombs of soldiers, standing knights in corners of baroque churches, damsels hidden in wooden scarves and dark mantels. Renaissance painters, medieval crosses, Japanese swords, enough material for many books.
Will there be time to pillage so much wealth?
Photo: Alte Museum, Berlin – © 2016 Honoré Dupuis
When is a logical proposition a conundrum?
Well, is there such a thing as the writer’s conundrum? That would be, perhaps, a logical proposition as to the role of writers, their responsibility, their freedom. Isn’t it the case that, for example, a writer whose inspiration is drawn from the society of her time, somehow owes that society something in return: her novel, her contribution to the common welfare, maybe the denunciation of evil?
So, how about this writer’s conundrum:
His inspiration came from the characters he created, but, once created, the characters didn’t let him develop the story: they wanted to tell their own…
Image: Jeanne Mammen, Jüngling, c.1943-45